Cat Miller meets Dice user Stefan Moore to answer his questions on specialization, marketing himself, and more. We did some editing of course, so here’s the list of all the questions Stefan asked, along with Cat’s answers.
Is specialization a good idea or a career killer for IT professionals?
It’s really a matter of preference, because specialists and generalists enjoy different career paths, pay and job security. Specialists often work as highly-paid consultants, who offer their services to many different companies, while the corporate world tends to favor IT generalists for full-time jobs. You have to keep your technical skills up-to-date no matter which career path you choose, but so you aren’t pegged as a generalist with shallow knowledge, it’s best to specialize in at least one technology stack, if you take the corporate route.
How can I take advantage of the technology boom, when I’m struggling to acquire hands-on technical experience?
Employers are often reluctant to hire a novice, who doesn’t have a lot of experience or a verifiable track record. So if you find ways to minimize their risk, it will be easier to get your foot in the door. Prove yourself by offering your services on a contract basis or volunteering to work as an apprentice or intern, be flexible and continue to persevere and you’ll eventually get a chance to break into the IT market.
How can I market myself to employers, so they view me as a serious candidate?
Start by researching the company’s problems and needs; then bundle your technical and soft skills into an attractive package and advertise your services to recruiters and IT managers. Personal branding, customized cover letters and resumes and targeted talking points are great ways to communicate your benefits, but don’t overlook professional and social networking as an effective way to reach your target audience.
Should I take a lower level position and use it as a stepping stone to advance my career?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t accept a lower-rung position, unless it allows you to acquire new technical skills and experience that will help you re-ascend the career ladder and ultimately reach new heights. It you decide to accept a lesser role, choose a company that offers career advancement or growth opportunities, so you don’t have navigate the job market while your career appears to be on a downward cycle.
Should I use an IT employment firm; if so, which one?
Inexperienced IT professionals should select a staffing firm that offers contract and contract-to-hire opportunities in addition to full-time placement, because employers are reluctant to pay a fee for an entry-level worker. Since the job opportunities you receive will come from the staffing firm’s client base and niche services, be sure to consider those factors when making your selection.